Just because I hear, it doesn’t mean I understand. Have you had that experience?
After countless experiences of having to ask, ”I beg your pardon?” or “Could you please repeat that?” or simply, “Huh?”, I finally got hearing aids.
Other than marriage to Carol, this is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Or more aptly, because of marriage, it was a best decision.
But… hearing does not necessarily mean listening. And listening does not necessarily mean understanding.
I can hear, so what is the gap?
I believe there are four key components that result in understanding between two people:
Care is a foundational element in Love. In my mind, care is appreciation, to favour, to cherish, and to feel affection for another. Because I care about another person, I want to understand what they are thinking, saying, and feeling.
Intention is about genuine engagement, focus, and concentration on the dialogue. To be effective, and because I care, I can consciously set my intention to achieve understanding. The intention-setting happens just before the dialogue, and the goal is to understand the other person – not to make them understand me.
Attention is sincere interest and concentration in a mindful way. When I am paying attention, I am willing to set aside whatever I’m doing and thinking and to focus on the words, voice quality, and body posture of the other person. Attention is being totally present and searching for meaning and understanding.
I know that I’m not being attentive when I notice my mind wandering, or I’m building a case, or a rebuttal against what the other person is saying. Anytime my mind is focused on me, my way, or my story, I’m not being attentive to them. When I’m focused on them, I know I’m in the right zone for understanding.
To be curious is to be inquisitive, interested, and full of wonder. Curiosity is a skill that sets aside judgments, past experiences and beliefs, and allows possibility to flourish. When I’m truly curious, I can ask for clarity and definitions of words and phrases, and treat what I hear as information, without my emotions being engaged.
I’m not good at applying all of these components – yet. However, when I’m practicing, I sense a greater level of comfort in the dialogue, trust builds, and usually the other person wants to understand me too. We’re able to come up with win/win decisions.
It’s interesting though. I find that I tend to do a much better job of understanding in my professional relationships than I do at home with the most important person in my life – Carol.
Does this happen for you too?
Here’s what I’m going to do, just for today. It is also my challenge for you, should you choose to accept it. Just for today, as an experiment.
I’m going to apply these four components in every dialogue I have with Carol. Here’s how:
• Care – I’ve got this handled, because I truly love and care about Carol. She is my soulmate and best friend.
• Intention – prior to every conversation, I will take a deep breath and consciously choose to set aside my views and focus totally on what Carol is saying, thinking, and feeling. This is about understanding her.
• Attention – I will totally focus on her, which means I will stop what I’m doing, I’ll face her, and I’ll keep my mind clear and present – to hear and understand what she’s saying. I’ll also maintain a neutral facial and body expression so she feels safe.
• Curiosity – I will ask for clarification. I will repeat back what I think I heard, in an inquisitive manner, so she can either affirm my understanding or add clarity.
• Measurement – at the end of today, I’m going to evaluate my feelings of success on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptional) and consider my desire to do it again tomorrow. I’m going to take it a step further, and ask Carol about her perception of how I’ve done (on a scale of 1 to 10).
Are you up for it?
If you’re having challenges with this, you’re not alone. We invite you to call us at 780-785-3700. We’re honoured to help you work through this, individually or as a couple. Your success and happiness are super important.